Monday, April 29, 2013

Minnesota Wild 2013 Regular Season Awards

Since the playoffs begin tomorrow, I decided we would pay our respects to the 2013 regular season, by handing out some hardware. It seems early to be doing this, but I'm going to go ahead and do this anyway.

Team MVP: Ryan Suter-Zach Parise and Matt Cullen were in the running as well for this award, but in the end, Suter was the clear choice for this award. Suter lead the NHL in average time on ice per game with 27:16 of ice time. He eclipsed 30+ minutes of TOI 10 times this year, including three out of the final four games of the season. Suter ranked second among NHL defenseman with 28 assists (Kris Letang had 33), while scoring four goals. Suter's poise in any situation was a great addition to the Wild roster this year and bolstered a blue line that is rather bothersome, after the top d-pairing. As we saw in the St. Louis game on April 11th, Suter missed the last half of the game, the defense looked awful and suffered horribly without him. He returned the next game and helped the team win a big matchup against Columbus (A 3-2 shootout win, which looks pretty good right now). Plain and simple: Ryan Suter is the Wild MVP of the season. There is no argument there.

Benoit Pouliot Award (Rookie of the Year): Jonas Brodin-Since Brodin will finish in the top three of the Calder Award (NHL ROY) voting, this award was not a close decision (with all respect to Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker). Brodin, 19, showed poise of a 29 year old, while being an anchor on the top d-pairing with Ryan Suter. Brodin showed tremendous defensive skills, putting on a clinic to some of the best forwards in the league, while adding 11 points (2 goals, 9 assists) on the season. He will be a staple on the Wild blue line for many seasons to come, and at the age of 19, still has his best years ahead of him.

Keith Carney Award (+/- leader): Matt Cullen (+9)-A finalist for Team MVP award, Cullen was a tremendous asset for the Wild this year as their second line center. He posted a 7-20-27 line on the year, in 42 games played. We saw in those games he missed, the team was just lost and confused without him. To win the +/- award, Cullen only finished the game with a minus just seven times out of those 42. He also never finished a game with a -3 or worse this year. Considering some of the games the Wild has played this year, that is no easy feat.

Performance of the Year: Josh Harding vs Dallas-There was a lot of coverage about Harding this offseason, once he was diagnosed with MS. He continued on with his hockey career, and in his first game this season, he notched a 24 save shutout against Dallas. Harding missed a good chunk of time later on in the year, but has returned to the Wild lineup in time for the playoffs. He is the Wild's nominee for the Masterton Trophy, and after reading the other 29 canidates, he should be a lock to win that award.

Hit of the Year: Charlie Coyle-13 seconds into the April 13th game against Columbus, Charlie Coyle delivered a controversial, but legal, hit to Columbus F Artem Anisimov. Four seconds later, Coyle was locked in a fight with Brandon Dubinsky, then was given a match penalty following the conclusion of the fight. The match penalty was rescinded the next day, confirming the legality of the hit. Coyle has been a force on the top line this year, bring a bit of physicality that his line mates Koivu and Parise, do not.

Goal of the Year: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter-Another award handed out with very little contest. This goal was a thing of beauty to see, and continues to get better over time. Please watch the goal and admire how awesome it is.

The Patrick Kane Quote

Yesterday in his blog, Russo was talking about the Wild-Blackhawks upcoming playoff series, and then towards the bottom of the post, he tossed in a quote from Blackhawks F Patrick Kane. Kane was speaking to the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc about the Wild:

“When they play like they want to, they can score four or five goals a night and keep it out of their net with maybe one of the best defensemen in the league [in Suter]. It’s a dangerous team. You definitely have to be careful with them. They’re a team that I’ve watched throughout the year and it seems like one night they look like the best team in the NHL and the next night they look like they don’t even want to be out there.”

Folks, that quote summed up the 2013 Minnesota Wild season. Kane could not of hit the nail on the head anymore.

We saw this past week in games against bottom-feeder teams Calgary and Edmonton, the Wild had an extreme lack of interest, and by the third period in both those games, they just plain gave up losing 4-1 and 6-1 respectively. Meanwhile, their game against Los Angeles was the exact opposite. They were focused, poised, and executed very well, looking like a playoff team in a 2-1 victory. Then on Saturday against Colorado, in a game the Wild had to win, they were found to be unfocused at times, but narrowly escaped with a 3-1 empty net goal victory.

Kane was definitely right, when he said that quote. But if I'm the rest of his team, I would not be happy with him.

The quote makes sense to all who are reading it, but if that gets read in the Wild dressing room, Wild fans may be thanking Mr. Kane for putting this out there.

The Wild are very capable of playing great hockey, as we saw during the month of March (11-4, including a seven game winning streak). But, the team lacked a motivating factor and suffered in April, with their sometimes lifeless play. Now that this quote was said, it might be the motivation that could drive the Wild to do great things, and play well night after night.

Where the season goes from here remains to be seen. But when all is said and done, and we look back on this in July, we will either remember this as the turning point, or it will just be forgotten all together.

I hope the former turns out to be true.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tale Of The Tape: Wild vs Blackhawks

Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Quarterfinal Matchup
#1 Chicago Blackhawks vs #8 Minnesota Wild

Chicago Blackhawks
Presidents Trophy Winners (Best Record in the NHL)
Overall Record: 36-7-5, 77 Points
Home Record: 18-3-3
Away Record: 18-4-2

Team Leaders:
Goals: Patrick Kane - 23 (5th in NHL)
Assists: Patrick Kane - 32
Points: Patrick Kane - 55 (5th in NHL)
Wins: Corey Crawford - 19
GAA: Ray Emery - 1.94

Team Stats:
Goals For: 155 - 1st in West (2nd in NHL)
Goals Against: 102 - 1st in West (T-1st in NHL)
Power Play: 18.7 - 11th in West
Penalty Kill: 87.2 - 1st in West (3rd in NHL)
Faceoff Percentage: 50.8 - 8th in West

Minnesota Wild
8th In Western Conference
Overall Record: 26-19-3, 55 Points
Home Record: 14-8-2
Away Record: 12-11-1

Team Leaders:
Goals: Zach Parise - 18
Assists: Ryan Suter - 28 (2nd in NHL among defenseman)
Points: Zach Parise - 38
Wins: Niklas Backstrom - 24 (T-1st in NHL)
GAA: Niklas Backstrom - 2.48

Team Stats:
Goals For: 122 - 12th in West
Goals Against: 127 - 9th in West
Power Play: 17.9 - 8th in West
Penalty Kill: 80.7 - 12th in West
Faceoff Percentage: 52.4 - 2nd in West (3rd in NHL)

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Saturday, April 27, 2013


Columbus gets burned, Minnesota celebrates!

Wild beat Colorado 3-1 and move on to the playoffs for the first time in 5 years! Have a cold one tonight!

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Just Win

The motto for tonight's Wild game: 

Puck drops at 7!

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Tonight, the Minnesota Wild, losers of eight out of their past eleven games, will take to the ice at Xcel Energy Center against the defending Stanley Cup Champion, Los Angeles Kings. The Wild enter the game tied with Columbus for 7th in the West at 51 points and are up 1 point on 9th place Detroit, after dominating the Coyotes 4-0 last night.

The Wild are coming off an embarrassing 4-1 loss to Calgary at home on Sunday. The loss now makes tonight's game a MUST win for the home squad, if they want to remain in the hunt for a playoff berth.

I know many of you have just given up and said this team is finished. Yesterday, I went against the grain and went over some positive thoughts about the final week of the season for this team. For those who still think negatively, please, don't give in to those thoughts.

In the team's remaining three games, they play LA at home, Edmonton at home, and Colorado on the road. The final two games are games the Wild SHOULD WIN and CAN WIN. I know, I know, we learned that games they should win are no easy wins, on Sunday. But the fact is, the Wild have owned Edmonton at home in recent years, and Colorado is just a joke. If the Wild can bring the same effort to those games like they did in the first half of the Calgary game on Sunday, they should have two easy wins right there.

But that brings us to tonight's game, against the Kings. The season series is tied between the two, as Minnesota won a 4-3 shootout game at home, then five days later lost in LA 3-0. The Kings enter tonight with a 6-2-2 record in their last 10 and are holders of the 4th seed in the West, with a two point cushion on fifth place San Jose. LA has been playing very outstanding hockey lately, and they will give you a very tough 60 minutes. They do the little things in a game so well (Getting sticks in the passing lanes, creating turnovers in the neutral zone, etc), that its just frustrating to play against them. After all, they are the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

Tonight, you should expect a bit of desperation in Minnesota's game, something they did not bring on Sunday. That will help them, if they can use that the right way against Los Angeles. But, this is a team that lost just FOUR games last postseason, so they have a way of channeling a team's desperation in their favor.

The Wild win this game, if they can get 3 or more goals past Jonathon Quick tonight. If its a 1-0 or 2-1 game, the advantage goes to LA. Minnesota is too snake bitten offensively lately to win those close low scoring games. As was the case with their victory earlier in the year against the Kings, four goals would be a good number to get the two points. They just need to catch a break or two along the way.

If Minnesota can pull out a victory tonight, you can lock them into the postseason. A big win during a bad stretch will greatly help the team's confidence going into their final two games of the season, especially when those two games are against bottom feeder teams. They will certainly roll over Edmonton and Colorado, after gaining the confidence from a victory tonight.

So sit back, and try to watch the game peacefully tonight. All you can do, at this point, is hope that this team can rise up in their darkest hour...

"They are the team Minnesota deserves, not the one they need right now."

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Being Positive

Last night, the Wild suffered their worst loss of the season, losing 4-1 to the Calgary Flames, in an almost must win game. The Wild came out strong, peppering the Calgary net, but could only get one shot past Joey MacDonald.  The team has lost eight of eleven games in April, and are now tied for the 7th seed in the West, with the red hot Columbus Blue Jackets.

There was much negativity on the internet following the game. The "Fire Yeo" squad was out in force last night. Folks don't seem to think the Wild will win another game this year and will miss the playoffs.

So instead of joining the crowd, I'm gonna take the high road here and give you some positive notes today:

  • There are three games left in the season. Two of them are at home, and two of them are against teams who sit at the bottom of the NHL standings.
  • If the Wild can get four points in the last two games, they are a lock to make the playoffs.
  • Mikko Koivu finally found the scoresheet last night, ending a streak of not registering a point in nine out of his previous ten games played.
  • If Minnesota can consistently get 36 shots on net, like last night, good chance they win some games with that kind of shot total.
  • Mike Yeo is the head coach of this team, and will be behind the bench to start the 2013-14 season. The front office has total confidence in him, and you should too.
  • Niklas Backstrom has been playing well in net. He has been the unfortunate victim of some bad bounces and some sloppy defensive play lately. If the Wild can clean that up, Backstrom will have the numbers to back up his good play.
  • Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund were sent down today. They will greatly help the Houston Aeros in their playoff run. They will get their games turned around, and will be back to help the Wild in their playoff run.
  • The Wild WILL make the playoffs. Just do yourself a favor and say that out loud and see how that sounds, compared to the "They are finished" which has been uttered several times in the past day.
Be positive folks.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Missing Mikko

Today, the Wild kick off their final week of the season, seeking a playoff bid for the first time in five years. They enter the game losers of 7 of their last 10 games and now clinging to the 7th seed in the West, after watching St. Louis get hot and fly past them in the standings.

A big factor in the Wild's cold streak, has been the play of their captain Mikko Koivu. Koivu has played one of the worst stretches of his career in the last 10 games, just registering one goal during that time, while posting a -6 (Including a horrible -3 Thursday night in San Jose).

Mikko's poor stats are a perfect reflection of his play these past 10 games. His play in the defensive zone has been poor, he oft turns the puck over, and he has been kryptonite to the Wild's power play by more times opting to pass, when he has a great shot to take.

As we have learned in past years, Mikko is such an important factor in the Wild lineup. In fact, when he has gone down with injury in recent seasons, the Wild fall apart without him. Last year, he missed 27 games and watched the Wild fall from #1 in the NHL to missing the playoffs (But an argument can be made for lack of depth on the team last year, especially when Warren Peters was getting significant ice time).

If the Wild wants to even get in the playoffs at this point, they need Koivu to start just playing better. He doesn't have to necessarily get points, but he just needs to be more smart when he hits the ice. Because right now, his play is just as bad as if he was out of the lineup.

Perhaps mixing up the top line would benefit Koivu, and linemate Charlie Coyle, who is also snake bitten as of late. But with other lines producing well, it is not likely that the lines will be juggled (The Bouchard-Brodziak-Pominville line has become Minnesota's best line). So Koivu will have to solve his issues with Coyle and Zach Parise on the wings.

Seriously folks, Mikko Koivu is what makes this ship run. Not Zach Parise. Not Ryan Suter. Not Niklas Backstrom. Its Mikko Koivu. They need him now more than ever before. Because he will be the difference between a playoff berth or another missed postseason.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is This Houston?! No, Its Iowa!

Instead of ballplayers coming out from cornfields, imagine hockey players coming out of large snowbanks

Today, at the AHL Board of Governors meeting, it is expected that the Wild's AHL affiliate will be allowed to move from Houston to Des Moines. The move will obviously be put up to a vote, and should pass without any issues.

The team will not be retaining the name Aeros either. That will die once their final game is played in Houston. When the team will move to Des Moines, they will simply be known as the Iowa Wild (I know, very creative).

The Wild have had their AHL team in Houston since 2001. So this will not be an easy move for either side. But in the end, it simply came down to the fact that the operators of the Toyota Center did not want to renew the Aeros lease because they felt they could make more money off of concerts and other events.

For those thinking attendance was the problem, it was not. Houston ranks 7th in the AHL with 258,122 total fans in 38 home games this season, for an average of 6,793 fans a game. And as HW points out today, the final regular season home game drew 13,506 fans in the Toyota Center (Give that HW article a read, as it salutes the good folks down in Houston).

Des Moines did not strike me as a great hockey market, so it will be interesting to see if they can match the Aeros attendance numbers. Their arena, the Wells Fargo Arena, does have a capacity of 17,000, but obviously they will not be filling that every night.

Houston has a fairly big airport, making it easier for players to get to wherever the Wild were, when they got called up. Now with the move to Des Moines, there may be more delays with callups getting to the team when players are getting on planes coming out of Des Moines (Heck, it may be easier for a player to just drive up to MSP from Des Moines to meet up with the team).

The only positive from this move to Iowa, is that fans will be able to take the 4 hour drive down to Des Moines and watch the team play. So one could expect a slight boost in attendance nightly from Twin Cities folks making the trek down there.

To be clear, the Wild made every effort to keep the team in Houston. They just simply were in a no win situation with the operators of the Toyota Center.

Once the playoffs end, this team will fold its tent and move to Iowa. So here's to a long playoff run, keeps the team in Houston for just a few more weeks longer than necessary!

Raise your glass to the Houston Aeros tonight, because their days are very numbered.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Playoff Odds

Following last night's 5-3 win in Edmonton, I took a trip over to and started reviewing the Wild's playoff odds. Not only does it give the Wild's percentage to get in the playoffs, it gives odds on where the Wild will finish and who they will play. All of this is based on how the Wild finish the season and with how many points they end up with.

Here are the odds for the Wild and the playoffs:

  • The Wild's playoffs odds went up 4.3% to 97.6% on whether or not they will make the playoffs at all.
  • Any combination of wins and OT games that gets the Wild to 57 points, gives them a 100% chance of making the playoffs and gives them a 33% chance to finish at least as the 6th seed. So keep 57 as your magic number at home.
  • Should the Wild go 5-0-0 in their final 5 games, that will give them 61 points and it gives them a 60% chance of winning the division and finishing as the 3rd seed.
  • Minnesota has a 30.8% chance of playing Anaheim in the first round. Vancouver is close behind at 26.7%.
  • There's a 10.2% chance of Minnesota finishing 8th and playing Chicago in the first round.
  • The percentage of Minnesota missing the playoffs entirely is now 2.4%..
  • Finally, Minnesota's percentage to win the Stanley Cup is 1.2%.
So out of all of this, you should take away that six more points in the final five games, assures Minnesota of a playoff spot, and it gives them a good chance to finish as the 6th seed in the West.

The Wild's remaining schedule is: @ SJ (4/18), vs CGY (4.21), vs LA (4/23), vs EDM (4/26), and @ COL (4/27). I count at least three wins (six points) in there. Question is: Can they get more?

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Long Gone, But Not Forgotten

"It's Ludwig, giving it to Dahlen ... 4,3,2,1 ... and it's all over. The Stars lose it here, 5-3, and now it's pack-'em up time and on to Dallas. We wish them good luck. And to all the North Stars over the past 26 years, we say thank you, all of you, for so much fine entertainment. 

It's been a pleasure knowing you, Minnesota's loss is definitely a gain for Dallas - and a big one. We thank you, though, from the bottoms of our hearts, for all the wonderful nights at Met Center, when you've given us so much entertainment and you've been such a credit to the community in which you played. We will still remember you as the Minnesota North Stars. 

Good night, everybody. And goodbye."-Radio voice Al Shaver makes the final call in North Stars history.

The date was April 15, 1993. It was a warm, clear spring day in Detroit, Michigan. And it was the final game of the regular season, for Hockey Town's beloved team, the Detroit Red Wings.

It was a seemingly meaningless game for the Wings. They were locked in to second place (Second to Chicago) in the old Norris Division, with a playoff matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs on the horizon. It seemed that all that mattered to the Red Wings on this night, was sharpening up their game for the playoffs later that week.

But to their opponent on this night, the game was far from meaningless.

The Minnesota North Stars were the visitors at Joe Louis Arena that evening. They were losers of 10 of 14 (3-10-1) since early March, and had lost out on a playoff spot, ending a streak of two seasons of making it into the postseason. They were coming off their final home game two days earlier, which was a 3-2 loss to the Blackhawks, which clinched the Norris Division title for Chicago.

What made this night and this game more important than it actually was, was the fact it was the final game in North Stars history.

A little over a month prior to this game, Stars owner Norm Green announced he was packing up his team and taking them south to Dallas. At the time, the Stars were sitting on a playoff spot with a record of 33-27-9. But much like the hearts of every Stars fan, the team quickly fell apart after that announcement. They just played flat lifeless hockey, and in the end, missed out on extending the time of the team in Minnesota for another week or so with a trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As for the game, Ulf Dahlen had two goals and Dave Gagner added two assists for the Stars, but five different goal scorers on Detroit (Including one from former Star Dino Ciccarelli) sealed the deal and sent the Minnesota North Stars into the record books with a 5-3 defeat at the Joe.

Once the game had ended, the Stars now belonged to Dallas, and Minnesota was left with nothing but the memories of their now former hockey squad.

Since the Stars moved on to Dallas, they became a power house for a decade and a half lead by their hall of famer Mike Modano. The team enjoyed numerous trips to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including back to back trips to the finals in 1999 and 2000, winning the 1999 Stanley Cup. That Cup was was just as painful to Minnesota hockey fans, as the team's departure in 1993. It was simply a reminder of what we lost and what we should of had.

Perhaps the greatest injustice to all of this, is the lack of respect to the team's history the Stars show for their years in Minnesota. No division or conference championship banners exist in American Airlines Center from the North Stars years. The retired numbers from Minnesota (#8-Bill Goldsworthy and #19-Bill Masterton), are still honored, but the way they are honored is insulting (#7 of Neal Broten was retired by Dallas on February 7, 1998). And a trip to the Stars website, gives no history of their years in Minnesota, but merely a history of hockey in Dallas.

Its as if Norm Green took the records of the North Stars and tossed them in the Mississippi River on his way down to Texas.

Meanwhile, Minnesota hockey was still booming after the Stars left. The Gophers Hockey Team continued to be a hot ticket in town and High School hockey still continued to set attendance records at the state tournament (Sans those two years at the Target Center).

But the biggest victory for Minnesota hockey came on June 25, 1997 when an ownership group lead by Bob Naegele Jr, had announced they had secured an NHL expansion franchise in St. Paul, beginning in the 2000-01 season. Ever since that day in June, the Minnesota Wild have been almost more popular than the North Stars were at any point, minus the two Stanley Cup runs by the Stars (The Wild's 409 game sellout streak would greatly tilt the argument in their favor).

Even with the popularity of the Wild, the pain of the Stars leaving still exists. The pain will never go away. We were left with a terrible void in our lives that has not been easy to fill. But most times, the Wild have made us forget about what we have lost.

On days like this, we reflect on the great history of the North Stars, and we wonder what would of happened had the team not left us. Would they of won a Stanley Cup still? Would Mike Modano play all but one season in the NHL as a Star? The answer could still certainly be yes, but we will never know for sure.

Dallas may not honor the 26 year history of the Minnesota North Stars, but Minnesota still will. And here today, on this terrible anniversary of the team playing their final game, we still salute the first NHL team to play in this state. And we will never forget the memories they gave us...

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Charlie Coyle's Very Legal Hit

A little review of the incredibly clean, but somehow deserving of a match penalty hit that Charlie Coyle delivered to Columbus F Artem Anisimov last night.

Kind of reminds you of the scene in D2 when Dean Portman gets tossed from the first USA-Iceland game, 30 seconds into the contest.

For once, LaPanta and Greenlay had the correct analysis on the Coyle hit (But if you had watched the CBJ feed, they thought mich differently). It was a shoulder to shoulder to hit that ended up having contact to the head because Anisimov was reaching for the puck. Coyle didn't throw an elbow or have an exploding shoulder when he hit Anisimov. He just went through him.

Coyle received a match penalty on the play after the officials got together and talked about it following Coyle and Dubinsky's fight. So had Dubinsky not gone after Coyle, there would not of been a match penalty there.

Thanks to @cjzero for this gif once again

Anisimov did not return to the game last night, and it was reported today that he will be out indefinitely.

After taking all this into consideration, the NHL Department of Player Safety did not choose to hand down any discipline to Charlie Coyle. So they too felt the hit was legal. Its just a shame that Artem Anisimov was seriously hurt on the play.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Russo's Chat of Gold

Today, Mike Russo used a Wild off day, to take part in one of his few Wild chats throughout the year. I took to reading the chat replay this evening, with very low expectations. I love Russo and think he is simply one of the best in the business, but his chats in the past have been rather, well, not informative enough (Some of the questions that get asked are ridiculous. I can only imagine the ones he doesn't answer).

But this chat was definitely not lacking useful information this time.

If you want to read the full chat, click here. Meanwhile, for those staying (Thanks!), I am going to go over those great nuggets of info Russo left for us today. Here we go...

  • White jerseys will be revamped next year, while red and green ones will remain. Its probably already been mentioned by Russo at some point this year, but its worth mentioning again. Get ready to part ways with the road jerseys circa 2000. Maybe look for something similar to either Houston Aeros white jersey (Main, alternate)?
  • The Aeros will most likely be leaving Houston and relocating to Des Moines, Iowa. It will be nice from a fan's perspective, making road trips to the farm team much easier and less costly. But I have read the Wild did not want their AHL team to leave Houston, and have been trying tirelessly to keep the team there.
  • The Wild will definitely be looking into re-signing Jason Pominville. Well given the kings ransom we just gave up for him (Just saying!), and the fact he has looked sharp in two games despite little practice, I would dear god hope so.
  • The Wild have inquired about Thomas Vanek from Buffalo. I think we can wait out another year until he hits free agency. Trading for him next year, with the cap going down to $64.3M, is dicey. 
  • The salary cap will continue to go up following the 2013-14 season. Lets hope for this, so we actually have a chance at getting Vanek.
  • If the Wild need a defenseman, for whatever reason, Marco Scandella will be that defenseman. When the Aeros season ends, the Wild can recall any player from Houston, without that player's salary counting towards the cap. Scandella has not had the best season, but maybe another shot at playing on the big club will get his game to take off.
  • Clayton Stoner will not be a healthy scratch this year. In Russo's blog last night, he mentioned how Yeo was impressed with Stoner's game against Columbus. Yeo believes that Stoner can only get better from here, so playing him is better than sitting him. I hope Yeo is right.
  • The Wild can beat Vancouver, Detroit, and Anaheim in a playoff series. Given the domination of all three teams lately, this team very well can. The Wild may not have a win against Anaheim, but they dominated play in the last two games. If the two teams meet in the playoffs, it should be a much different outcome for the Wild.
  • The Wild can not beat St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Chicago in a playoff series. It took shootouts for the Wild to beat Los Angeles and Chicago at home. Road games against the Hawks and Kings have been horrendous. St. Louis plays very big, (which does not matchup well for the Wild) and has dominated the Wild as well this year. Meanwhile, the Kings and Blackhawks, are quite fast, and the Wild are a bit lacking in the speed department.
  • My favorite point: Russo does not whine about traveling, he just critiques persistent maintenance delays. If you follow Russo on Twitter, you frequently finding him having some sort of delay that is preventing him from traveling. I find it very entertaining when this happens, as he loves to point out the flaws. Others call this whining.
So as you can see, lots and lots of info from the great Russo in this chat. Probably won't see another until the end of the season, whenever that is.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Rest For Backstrom

As the Wild come down the stretch for the final 11 games of the season, one thing is quite clear: Niklas Backstrom needs some rest.

Backstrom has started the last 16 games for the Wild, including a pair of back to back games, the most recent of which, he was pulled after 2 shots in a 3-0 loss to Los Angeles in game 2 of those back to backs. In those 16 games, he has posted an 11-5-0 record with a 2.82 goals against average and a .903 save percentage.

But in the last 6 games, Backstrom has shown signs of fatigue. He has a GAA of 3.90 and a save percentage of .860, in those 6 games, which saw the team lose their 7 game winning streak, and are now on a 3 game losing skid.

At 35 years old, Backstrom showed great poise for his age early on in the season. That great poise, was taken advantage of night after night by Mike Yeo, and who could blame him when Backstrom was playing so well. But now that poise has appeared to have worn off, as Backstrom plays night after night without a rest.

So the solution to the problem is plain and simple: Give Backstrom some games off. With Matt Hackett gone to Buffalo and Josh Harding still on IR, Darcy Kuemper will be the backup for the remainder of the season. Kuemper has done well so far on the year with the Wild, posting a 1.98 GAA and.923 save percentage in 5 games. So there should be no reason why Kuemper doesn't get a start in 3-4 games to finish the year.

With the playoffs on the horizon, the Wild will rely on Backstrom in every game they play, should they get into the big dance. So it makes a lot of sense to give the 35 year old some rest now, before they get there (Yes, I am aware that the Wild are in a extremely tight playoff race). Allowing Kuemper 3-4 starts in the last 11 games will: A) Give Backstrom the rest he needs and B) Keep Kuemper sharp enough to perform adequately in those 3-4 games (The Wild have allowed their backups to just sit on the bench and get rusty way too much this season).

You may remember a few weeks ago, I talked about how the Wild should bring Backstrom back next season. I still support that notion. But, I also believe that he is a bit old, and needs to be given adequate rest to perform at that high level he is capable of playing at.

Should Mike Yeo go with Backstrom for the last 11 games, he will run his #1 goalie into the ground, and will destroy any chance of the Wild making the postseason.

So please, let the man rest for a few games.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Thoughts On The Pominville Trade

Yes, this is a second post on this topic.

But, the first post purely focused on what the Wild are getting when they acquired Jason Pominville today. This post is a much different story.

In exchange for RW Jason Pominville and Buffalo's 2014 4th round pick, the Wild sent C Johan Larsson, G Matt Hackett, a 2013 1st round pick, and a 2014 2nd round pick on to Buffalo.

Being positive here, the Wild got a great two way forward, with tremendous offensive skills. He adds a lively right handed shot to the top power play. He will strengthen an already stellar penalty kill. His work ethic is outstanding (The top line of Parise-Koivu-Pominville will be one of the hardest working lines in hockey). With him in the mix, the Wild have become a powerhouse alongside Chicago and Anaheim in the Western Conference.

Then on the negative side, the price for Pominville was tremendously steep. Too steep for my liking. But, Chuck Fletcher and his staff believe in the team they have right now, and they met that steep price to get Pominville. Had it been a couple of second round picks, fine. Sending that first round pick coupled with Larsson and Hackett (Two of the Wild's top ten prospects), just flat bothers me. Even if Pominville is here for the remainder of this year and all of next year. But as Fletcher said today, "Anytime you want a good player who's not a rental, you're going to have to pay a price."

I guess at this point, I'm indifferent on this trade. I thought the Wild needed to add a defenseman more than a forward today (See the performance of Clayton Stoner, Justin Falk, Nate Prosser, and Tom Gilbert lately). They got Pominville, and gave up some big prospects to get him. But it was pointed out to me by a friend today that both players had really not impacted the team this year, nor had they proven themselves in the NHL yet, keeping the "prospect' label on them.

If this team can go far in the playoffs both seasons with Pominville, great. This trade will probably be considered a success then. But that's all IF they can make some deep postseason runs.

A few other thoughts I had following the trade:

  • With Pominville on the books at $5.3 million for next year, it all but assures that Dany Heatley will be bought out (Using one of the team's amnesty buyouts), or traded this summer. Heatley carries a $7.5 million cap hit, and his play this season has not justified having him return with that kind of cap hit (Reminder, the cap next year is $64.3 million and the Wild have $55.9 million committed to 16 players, including Pominville and Heatley). 
  • Pierre-Marc Bouchard is almost as good as gone following the season too. I was kind of surprised to see the Wild hang on to him today.
  • Now that Matt Hackett has been traded, it would seem that the Wild will be for sure getting Niklas Backstrom back next year. Backstrom is in the final year of his contract and is a UFA this summer. Had they let him go, the tandem of Harding/Kuemper would man the nets for Minnesota next year. And who knows when Josh Harding will play again (Sorry, had to say it).

We will just have to wait and see how this all plays out. And it starts tomorrow in Los Angeles.

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A New Face In The State Of Hockey: Jason Pominville

Jason Pominville
Right Wing
185 lbs
Shoots: Right
Born: November 30, 1982
Birthplace: Repentigny, Quebec, Canada

Today, just prior to the 2 PM deadline, the Minnesota Wild acquired right winger Jason Pominville from the Buffalo Sabres. Pominville was a Buffalo Sabre his entire career since coming into the league in 2005-06 (He played one game in 2003-2004, so lets be real, he came into the league in 05-06).

Since his arrival in the NHL, Pominville has been an offensive force, scoring 20+ goals in every one of his seasons in the NHL, with the exception of his rookie year (Scored 18 goals in 57 games). He has also put up a minimum of 57 points a season (With the exception of his rookie year), while posting a career high of 80 (27-53-80) in 2007-08. His right handed shot should fit in on the Wild's top power play unit just fine (Sorry Brodziak!).

But there is much more to Pominville's game than his offense. Pominville has excelled at both ends of the ice, making himself one of the best two way wingers in the league. His work ethic rivals those of new linemates Koivu and Parise, and he has been a staple on the Sabres PK. 

Also keep in mind he has been the Sabres captain for the past two seasons, and was the team's captain for a month back in 2008 (It was a system similar to Jacques Lemaire's monthly captain thing). So the Wild's new top line (Parise-Koivu-Pominville) consists of three captains.

Pominville is under contract for this year and next year at $5.3 million each year, then will become an unrestricted free agent.

The price to get Pominville here may have been steep, but Chuck Fletcher obviously felt he could better help this team now as the Wild prepare to make a playoff run for the first time since 2008. He pulled the trigger to add the dynamic Pominville, to an already dynamic team. The move clearly makes the Wild a bigger force in the West, putting them right up there with Chicago and Anaheim.

Beware Western Conference, the Wild are serious contenders now. And you can thank that to the acquisition of Jason Pominville today.

Do yourself a favor and mute the audio on this video

Welcome to the Team of 18,001 Jason Pominville!

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell